New Delhi: When social distancing is the new norm of our life, people who stay in Bastis(slums) are most vulnerable. Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti is home to India’s pluralistic traditions, and the shrine of the 13th century revered Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya – visited by pilgrims of all faiths. This 700-year-old settlement is home to a community of over 10,000 people, over 70% of whom are engaged in the unorganised sector and provide daily wage labour.
Since the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters is also located in the Basti, it gained prominence in the Covid-19 discussions too. Fortunately, one month after the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters were vacated, nobody in the Basti has yet tested positive.
However, the Basti was treated as a hotspot and sealed by the Government of Delhi on April 9th, 2020. This was the second stage after lockdown, where residents could not access even for basic necessities, leading to enormous hardship for many families who are now struggling to make ends meet.
The 1st phase of relief distribution to people in the basti was in the form of ration kits, supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture(AKTC). SehatSahaytaSamooh (SSS), a community group with 51 members currently, was initiated under the community health program of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s, Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative. The group was formed to create and manage an emergency health fund – SwasthyaKosh that provides small loans to members for medical emergencies. SehatSahaytaSamooh has helped several families last year and has had a 100% repayment rate so far.
With the (SSS) volunteers having secured curfew passes, they distributed rations kits for 600 families, to support them for the next 30 days. Additionally, they are also providing food, security and personal hygiene products to the neediest of families in the area, to ensure their survival during this period when they are not able to access livelihood opportunities. The volunteers procure ration at competitive prices and packages. Then they distribute kits while following physical distancing measures.
The group also started an online crowdfunding campaign on South Asia’s largest crowdfunding platform, Milaap to reach out to more vulnerable families in the basti. They are relying on the generosity of kind strangers across the world to reach out and help with a contribution through these tough times. The fundraiser has already raised Rs. 5 Lakh out of their target of Rs. 24 Lakh, with the help of 130+ supporters.
Ms. Shahjahan, signatory and group member of SehatSahaytaSamooh said, “The success of our campaign has demonstrated that we are not alone and there are many who care. These funds will save lives and provide an opportunity for many from the basti to get another chance to stand on our feet with dignity”
The Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative has been able to visibly change the quality of lives of people through its interventions in health, education, sanitation, livelihoods and reclaiming urban spaces. Their volunteers also helped the Delhi government to conduct a survey in the basti after the Tablighi incident.